The subject of sacred sex, such as tantra, probably earns more smirks than any other spiritual topic.
Yet we live in a society where sex is more important than religion to most people, so why do we laugh? Why aren't more of us trying to find the divine heights that tantric teaching tells us our lovemaking can reach?
I guess there are a few answers to that. One of them has to be that much of tantra is about ways to avoid having an orgasm. We all know orgasms are great, so why on earth would we want to avoid them?
Another important factor is that we lead very busy lives. Tantra is often perceived as being something that is difficult and time-consuming to learn, requiring years of regular practice to be proficient at.
A book I was sent last month, 28 Days to Ecstasy for Couples: Tantra Step by Step by Pala Copeland and Al Link, does a pretty good job of dealing with both of those problems.
It contains exercises for couples that take about 20 minutes each and are designed to be done one per day over a month to teach the basics of tantra.
None of the exercises are particularly difficult. They start with things such as simple visualisations, breathing exercises, loving eye contact with your partner and tensing and relaxing muscles. In fact, I think anyone trying them would be surprised at how easy they actually are - and enjoyable. After all, sex is meant to be enjoyable and tantra is all about experiencing the divine through joy.
At the end of each week there is a tantric lovemaking session that involves a little ceremony and ritual such as bathing together, creating a sacred space with lighted candles and incense and confirming your commitment to each other. There are also erotic exercises designed to increase sensual pleasure and help you learn to move sexual energy throughout your entire body.
Yes, but what about the "not having an orgasm" thing? I hear people ask. Actually, the book describes it more as "non-goal-orientated lovemaking". It explains techniques for prolonging sex in order to intensify the sensation and it certainly doesn't forbid anyone from having an orgasm.
What the book does not do is go into depth about theory. It is primarily a workbook of practical exercises, while the history of tantra and the thoughts behind it are covered in Soul Sex: Tantra for Two: Tantra for Sexual and Spiritual Pleasure, an earlier book by Al Link.
If you and your partner are looking for an easy, practical step-by-step guide on tantra, 28 Days to Ecstasy for Couples is a good book to begin with. It also has plenty of ideas for things to do after the first month, as the second half of the book contains plenty of suggestions for ways to continue practising sacred sex.
Published by Llewellyn, 28 Days to Ecstasy for Couples: Tantra Step by Stepby Pala Copeland and Al Link, costs $17.95 in the US, which should be about £9.50 in the UK.